Demand for ICT workers has remained steady over the past month as employers continue to hunt for high quality tech talent.

Job ad site Seek reported a four per cent month-on-month increase in the number of ICT jobs advertised on the platform in September with ads for developers, business analysts, and help desk workers increasing the most.

Compared to other in-demand industries like healthcare, manufacturing and logistics, ICT job ads saw the highest growth in September.

For Melbourne-based cryptocurrency exchange BTC Markets, COVID-19 has seen the small team grow significantly despite challenging lockdowns.

“We've directly hired four software engineers plus a project manager for our development team during COVID lockdown,” BTC Markets CEO Caroline Bowler told Information Age.

“We're still looking to make additional hires.”

Of course, the pandemic has changed the nature of recruiting for small Australian tech companies, but Bowler said her company has always been poised to shift to remote work.

“All interviews and recruitment have been done virtually, along with training and orientation,” Bowler said.

“We've yet to physically meet our new employees. This brings new challenges at a soft skill – culture, connectedness, team cohesion – and technical level.”

Director of LinkedIn's APAC Talent Solutions department, Adam Gregory, said it had been common for IT-enabled parts of the economy to have performed well during the COVID-19.

“Some industries tended to buck the pandemic hiring trends, including the Software and Finance industries, which are more likely to have more jobs that can work remotely," he said.

"In particular, programmers and developers are in high demand as businesses seek to meet increasingly digital demands of the modern-day workforce. In fact, software development was listed in LinkedIn’s 'Most Popular Courses' list.”

The rise of the remote workforce has led some employers to try their hand at off-shoring development – something that founder of marketing company Suits&Sneakers, Anne Miles, said did not pan out.

“It failed miserably with PHP and WordPress projects,” Miles said. “Low cost talent haven't lived up to our standards and we're still suffering from having to fix up the work done and do it all again.

“Thank goodness we trialled it in-house and not for a client.”

While Seek has once again ranked developers among Australia’s most in-demand jobs, Miles is finding her clients have greater desire for talent who can configure bespoke cloud systems.

“We're seeing a shift from needing hard core coding skills to needing people that know how to drive, style and configure more DIY cloud based tech platforms like Educatly and Podia for training programs,” she said.

A reason for optimism?

Searches conducted by Information Age on Seek, Indeed, CareerOne, and in recent months point show ICT job ads growing in number.

ANZ bank tracks job advertisements across different metrics and saw a nationwide boost in the number of ads last month – though the total year-on-year number is still down nearly 25 per cent.

Senior economist at ANZ, Catherine Birch, has suggested that high unemployment – currently 6.8 per cent according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – could mean the job ad numbers need to reach beyond pre-pandemic levels before the economy gets back on track.

“The question now is whether a return to pre-pandemic levels of job ads and vacancies would be enough to entrench a solid labour market recovery,” she said.

“Those previous levels reflected churn, that is, workers changing jobs, skills and labour mismatches, and rising labour demand as the economy expanded.

“Yet right now, we need to get a huge volume of people – who were until recently employed – back into the workforce, along with new entrants and those wanting to re-enter the workforce.

“This suggests that job ads and vacancies may need to sustain materially higher levels for some time.”

The latest ABS data shows a slight increase in payroll jobs across the country in recent weeks, but the professional, scientific and technical services industry saw payroll numbers fall during September.